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Strategy Questions

I hope you have a copy of AWCI’s 100-year commemorative book, “Celebrating 100 Years of Industry Growth with the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry.” If you do, here are a few questions you can use along with the book at your next strategic planning meeting.

Do We See The Big Picture?

One of my favorite stories from AWCI’s 100-year history comes from the 1960s.


In November 1962, AWCI’s executive committee met in Chicago at the Drake Hotel to discuss, among other things, its official magazine, Plastering Industries. The magazine had begun accepting ads from gypsum wallboard manufacturers and others outside of plastering, and this created a stir. “[AWCI] should not encourage moving into other fields,” said someone present. The executive committee was made up of lathers and plasterers, who either didn’t see the structural change coming to the industry, or perhaps refused to acknowledge it.


Ask yourself: What would we have done had we been present in 1962? Would we have stubbornly defended plaster only, or promoted other systems alongside of it? And today, do we find ourselves protective of traditional construction methods? Or, are we open to new ideas? Is our team involved with AWCI’s learning and leadership activities? Are we in tune with developing trends? Is our team excited about change? How can we get them to be as excited as we are?


AWCI adapted to the marketplace in the 1960s and 1970s. The association, which had been founded by plasterers in 1918, diversified into drywall, metal framing, fireproofing, gypsum shaft walls, acoustical ceiling tiles, EIFS, panelization and more. It came down to seeing the big picture.

Do We Motivate People?

Another favorite story of mine: Robert L. Maidt’s motivating speech in 1957. You’ll find it in the book in the 1950s.


Maidt of Oklahoma City was chairman of AWCI’s Promotional Committee. At the association’s 1957 convention in Los Angeles, Maidt hung signs throughout the convention premises that read, “YCMMBSOYS.” Eventually, Maidt took the stage and asked the convention delegates to stand up and look beneath their chairs. One of them had a $10 bill (a decent amount of money back then). After the bill was found, Made said that “YCMMBSOYS” stood for “You Can’t Make Money By Sitting On Your Seat.” In other words, get off your duff and do something.


Questions: What are we doing to motivate our team? Are our project managers enthusiastic about their work? How can we spur them on? What toolbox talks do our superintendents and foremen give? How often do they get the crews together for pep talks? Who is our in-house “Tony Robbins”? Who, with a little training, could play that role in the future?

Are We Telling the Right Story?

In the 1940s, AWCI and the unions set up the National Foundation for Lathing and Plastering, which was reborn in the 1950s as the National Bureau for Lathing and Plastering. One of the National Bureau’s promotions was the “Knock on the Wall” campaign, which encouraged homeowners to choose plaster over drywall. The campaign generated attention, but it failed to stem the rising tide of drywall construction. “Knock on the Wall” was a good catchphrase, but it wasn’t the right story to tell because the industry was diversifying beyond wet wall systems.


Ask yourself: What story are we telling our customers? Do we emphasize price or quality? Do we promote skillsets that set us apart in the market? Do we have a good community involvement story to tell? What stories could win us more customers?

Strategy and Leadership

In answering these questions, I recommend getting input from as many people in your organization as possible. In fact, go outside the industry for ideas. A non-construction firm could send you a capable speaker to motivate your team, and you can return the favor.


And, use AWCI’s book, “Celebrating 100 Years of Industry Growth with the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry.” The book covers AWCI’s rich history. But I think it’s a book about strategy and leadership. You can glean many lessons on good communication, long-term planning and collaboration by discussing chapters in the book with your team.

Mark L. Johnson is an industry writer and marketing consultant. Reach him at @markjohnsoncomm, and at

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